This is a view of the Four Sons I’ve been kicking around for a few years. I’ve never much liked the way they’re all treated. We elevate the wise one; we castigate the “evil” one; The simple one we sort of overlook; to the one who doesn’t know how to ask, we give basically the same answer as we give to the “evil” one but with less kick.
What if each of the four sons is at a different point in his religious journey. What if they’re all the same person at different points in their lives, or representative of four types of religious people.
The wise one has it all figured out. He was somehow endowed with some knowledge of the divine and has easily found his religious identity. He doesn’t need any convincing. Preach away to an eager choir.
The “evil” one to me has never been evil. He’s not indifferent, but ambivalent. He’s being torn apart inside by the doubts he has on one hand and the desire to connect with God on the other, and he’s desperately trying to resolve that conflict. Some people misunderstand him and break his teeth, so to speak, but all he’s really doing is trying to engage so he can finally find his way. Yes, he may be combative at times. Yes, he may lash out. But it’s what he needs to find his truth. Be gentle.
The simple one isn’t bothered by it. He kind of coasts through life religious because that’s how he was born, never really trying to figure it out one way or the other. His faith is simple in the sense that it isn’t based on much inner conviction. He believes what he was raised to believe, and he doesn’t rock the boat.
The one who doesn’t know how to ask is the most misunderstood, though. It’s not that he doesn’t know how to ask. He does. He tried. The one who doesn’t know how to ask started out as the “evil” one. He asked until he was blue in the face but no one wanted to answer him. He’s the second son who wasn’t handled gently, with kindness and love, but with anger and intolerance. He’s sporting a set of broken teeth. It’s not that he no longer knows how to ask, rather he doesn’t care to anymore. He’s utterly spent. Emotionally exhausted. So completely sick of faith and the faithful that he doesn’t even care to try. Go apologize.